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I feel so strongly about promoting a healthy marriage initiative in our state because marriage is in crisis. In 1970, nearly 80% of all American adults were married; today that number has dropped to 57%. The Marriage Index also reports that today 40% of all American children are born out-of-wedlock. In the midst of many external challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit personal lives and communities. We are losing our determination and the skills to keep marriage healthy and strong.
We need to think of marriage as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman; not as a throwaway consumer relationship where we’ll want a refund or exchange due to an imperfect model. Within sacred matrimony, the chances are enormously higher for personal growth, better health, more happiness, a longer life and greater well-being for children.
There are a bunch of great events planned throughout Utah for National Marriage Week. From Logan to St. George there are marriage celebrations happening in your very own community. I have the honor of speaking at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi Friday Night, and our own Matt Townsend will be in Emory County Saturday Night (visit utahmarriage.org for a complete schedule and to learn more). Regardless of your ability to attend a formal celebration, and regardless if you are married or not, you can celebrate marriage. Honor the time in years and months that you and your spouse have been together (call it “Another Anniversary”). Recognize a marriage in your extended family, church, or community that inspires you. If proximity allows, visit them in person and share how their marriage has had a positive and significant impact on you.
I believe that there is one group, far and above anyone else, that we learn the most about marriage from. Our greatest marriage educators? Parents!
Parents Teach Marriage Education
From day one! The loudest example is often the most silent! A baby quickly learns about love, affection, caring for personal needs, and communication by observing his or her parents. As you model fidelity, commitment to spouse, and respect for others in all interpersonal exchanges, you become an irreplaceable example of essential values as your children develop a worldview about marriage and life. Your relationship to your mate is the primary teaching example of marriage to your children. Best parenting advice? Love that child’s other parent!
Parents Teach Conflict Management
If a child witnesses a disagreement between parents, they also need to witness Mom and Dad apologizing, forgiving, and making-up. Reassure children that conflict in relationships happen even when there is great love and respect. Parents who handle conflict wisely in front of their children are more likely to raise children with healthy attitudes and good conflict management skills. While children don’t need to know or understand all the details about the conflict, it’s best if parents don’t pretend that they have conflict from time to time, and that such conflict doesn’t indicate a lack of love and respect form one another. I have met too many young married couples where one of them is blown away at the sign of the first marital argument because he or she never saw their parents argue or disagree.
Parents Teach Sex-Ed
All education begins from the moment that baby is in your arms. From the very beginning, you are training your children how to feel about their bodies, growth and development, the healthy elimination process, and puberty and maturation. How a young person feels about the various stages of their own development goes with them even into marriage! Talk to your daughter early about menstruation and what a gift that cycle is to her dreams of one day, after marriage, becoming a mother herself. Development is something to celebrate! Talk to your sons about the natural occurrence of nocturnal emissions, and that they are nothing to be ashamed or guilty of. Become your child’s expert on sex education and that, together, there is nothing you can’t talk about, and that if you don’t know the answer to something, you’ll research the matter and get back to them immediately. You don’t have to know all the answers just be willing to learn and discuss them!
Parents Teach Partner Development
I love the story of a mother would made great efforts to teach and correct her son always with the admonishment, “I want you to learn to do this for Betty.” After some time the boy finally asked his mother, “Mom; who’s Betty?” It turned out that “Betty” was the name his mother used for the girl he would marry one day, and she wanted him to learn good behaviors so that he would be a better husband for “Betty!” (Lucky, Betty!)
Parents Teach Character Recognition
Teaching moments are all around! When your teenagers have begun to date, comment on what you notice, for example, “Gee, I thought that was very considerate of Gary to call you and tell you he was sorry for running late and that he’d be here soon to pick you up. That is a great trait!” Educate your children to observe how a member of the opposite sex treats other people, such as wait staff in a restaurant, teachers and authority figures, and less popular kids at school; discuss what they think that means. We often spend hours debating over college options, potential majors, financial arrangements and even how to select the best dorm. Let’s make sure we prepare them for another important life choice looming over the horizon – long-term marriage.
If you have questions or comments for Dr. Liz, you can contact her through her blog at strongermarriage.org and click on the “blog” icon at the bottom of the page.